We returned last week from two fabulous weeks at this amazing resort in Varadero Cuba. We were married on May 18th at 3pm at Iberostar Laguna Azul.
Here is a link to a facebook group with tonnes of pics from the week and wedding day that our guests have been posting. Once we get our professional pictures I will do a seperate thread with those.
Chantelle Perzul | Facebook
Travel Agent: A
We used a family friend referral and went with Carrie Borrer, a private agent through flight centre. She was nothing short of wonderful. We had a very large and needy group and I am sure she is happy our wedding is over as she won't have a million and one emails at all hours of the day. Becasue she works from home, I did take advantage of that and called her a few times when I probably shouldn't have with questions that could have waited, and she had all the patience in the world for me. She worked very hard making sure that everyone was happy.
Bus to the resort: A
Our guide was so sweet and informative. We had a bus and a half just for our group of people and she was keeping us all laughing and excited for our trip. Note: before you get on the bus there are vendors who will sell you two Cristal beers for 5 Canadian dollars. Nice to have for the ride (maybe half hour long)
Check In: B +
Because we had such a large group, I think the front desk was a little overwhlemed but they did move as fast as they could. By the time we arrived it was almost midnight (we had a four hour delay in Toronto) so we were all a little tired and hot, and after about an hour or so we were all checked in. (note: if you are waiting in line with your group to be checked in, appoint someone to go to the lobby bar and get drinks for everyone - it is right beside the check in counter and made the wait so much easier with with a nice cold drink!)
Us and our 70 guests all loved this resort. It is a wonderful place to get married, and to any future brides don't worry about the bad reviews - it's a fantastic place to go and have your wedding. It is new so everything is very modern and pristine (the marble floors are stunning!) There are three pools, one large one in the middle which is the main one. Most of our group spent all day here....the pool bar is here and there are lots of activites, music and action. The two pools at each side of the resort are very nice as well...great to go for a more quiet and relaxed atmosphere. Overall the food was good...it is Cuba so I wasn't really expecting a lot but I ate a lot and 99% of the food I had tasted great. At the buffet the fresh pasta and omlette stations are amazing, as was the romantico (gourmet) a la carte restaurant. There was one night FI and I both had upset tummy's but it could have been from a number of things (too much sun, booze and/or lack of sleep so I really can't blame it on the food). The ice cream bar is right by the main pool and it is the BEST ice cream...I was literally there everyday for the two weeks we were there LOL.
Wedding Coordinator: B++
Yahimara was our wedding coordinator. She is very nice, helpful and sweet in person, but in all honesty I think maybe she is a bit overworked. Leading up to the wedding, she was very hit and miss with returning emails. Sometimes it would be within a day, others within weeks or not at all. She told us there was 36 weddings in the last two months. She was leaving for a week of vacation right after our wedding was over, and was off sick the day before so we also dealt with Yahima on that day for any questions we had.
Yahimara sat down with us the morning after our arrival to go over the details of the wedding day. (did we want a DJ, video, private party etc). At this time we gave her our CD's with music, and any decorations for the wedding.
She offered us the private disco after the wedding dinner at 10 pesos per guest per hour (2 hours). We said no right away as that seemed ridiculous to pay that much at an all inclusive and we figured with such a large group we would just take over somewhere.
We also asked to book our welcome dinner at one of the a la cartes which she said would be at the Del Chef. Later in the day we were at the pool and she came to tell us that they had made a mistake and double booked the Del chef restaurant so we would need to have our welcome dinner at the buffet. In lieu of this they ended up giving us the private disco after the wedding dinner for free so it all worked out!!
On the day of the wedding I needed to have my dress steamed, and the hanging it in the shower wasn't doing the trick so she took myself and one of my BM's down to their laundry area where a Cuban woman who didn't speak a word of english steamed my dress in front of me. They used a very old looking machine that basically folded over my dress...I was freaking out and sooo nervous watching it but it turned out beautifully. I thought it was adorable that she did that for me.
Welcome dinner: A
Originally this was to be at one of the a la cartes, and the resort double booked it so we got moved to the buffet. It worked out so much better for us and our guests because a) everyone could eat what they wanted and it didn`t take up any of their a la cartes. They also served lobster that night so it was a HUGE bonus!
OOT bags: A++
I am sooo happy we did these! It was a lot of work, took up space and weight in our luggage and was way over our original budget to do with 70 guests, but it was sooo worth it. Our guests all loved them and used everything in them. We had stadium cups made which were a huge hit and helped make less frequent trips to the bar. We also had playing cards, hand sanitizer, o shit kits, toothpaste, puzzle books, bubbles, wrist keycard holders, timeline and welcome letters.
My BM`s got nicer beach bags and I put their starfish necklace, and custom made braclets in it as well.
Wedding site - A ++
We were to be married at 4 pm on the beach. At our initial meeting Y took us and our photogs to the other available locations before going to see the beach site. When she took us to the 5th floor terrace I didn't even need to see the beach as I knew the terrace was where I wanted to be married. It was private, and overlooked the ocean and it took my breath away. FI and photogs agreed it was a better choice. We also decided to change our time to 3 pm so we'd have more time for pics before dinner at 6:30.
My BM's, moms and I all spent the morning of the wedding at the hair salon (there were eight of us needing our hair done and only one hairdresser - it worried me a little, but she was fast and we all looked gorgeous. She has magic hands for sure! I thought I wanted my hair half up half down, but the humidity that day was bad so at the last minute I went with a messy sort of up do, and it was the best thing because I didn't think about it once all day.
Luckily one of my friends is a make up artist for MAC so she did our make up in the salon). It was a really nice morning actually - it felt very calm and serine to be with my closest friends. Family and friends kept stopping in and brought us cappucinos....all in all it was just a really nice morning. (FI and I slept apart the night before the wedding, so we hadn't seen eachother and it was like a little spy mission anytime he or I went around the resort...he wasn't allowed near the salon lol)
Wedding Ceremony A+
After the salon I got ready in my room with my mom and BM's and took some getting ready shots with my photog. At 3 we were ready and Y came and got us (and my dad) up to the 5th floor. We were just on the 4th floor right below the site so it took like 30 seconds to get there.
Once you step off the elevator the site is just to your right, so I just kinda hid in the corner so the guests (or groom) couldn't sneak a peek at me. Y told us to listen for the cue of our CD - we brought our own music for the BM walk and my dad and I's walk. The girls and my mom went first (to Jack Johnson's "Better Together"), and than my dad and I went (to Chantal Kreviack's "feels like home")
Note: you don't get any kind of wedding rehersal at this resort so you kinda wing a lot of things....watching the video back, my girls pretty much ran down the aisle...it's funny to watch but for future brides maybe give your bm's a heads up to slow down a bit....I almost did the same thing but thankfully my dad was there to remind me to slow down . (that's also on our video lol)
Once FI saw me he melted down and the tears started to flow all around the room. It was a really touching moment and ceremony and I am so glad it's on video because it really does fly by. Once the ceremony started the sky opened up and it started to rain very softly...the officiant told me after that in Cuba that is a sign of a long and prosperous marriage (awww!).
The ceremony is in Spanish and translated by Y into english. We gave Y a passage to read which was nice, but one regret I do have is not finding time to write our own vows. We were so busy 'hosting' 70 guests that we didn't find the time to write them. The Cuban wedding wording isn't very romantic or emotional so I wish we would have had something to say to eachother that was more heartlfelt and from us.
After the ceremony, signing of documents and exchanging of rings (my ring was hard to get on...I was puffy!! we have me saying that on video hahaha...aannd I tried putting his ring on the wrong hand lol) there was the all important kiss. It goes by so fast, so I can't stress enough how nice it is to have it on video!!
After the ceremony, there is champaigne, and I got to see the decorations...they had a row of fresh flowers on either side of the aisle and they used the turquoise chair sashes that we brought from home. The champaigne bottles were dressed as little bride and grooms which was cute.
Musical trio - C
This was a small part of the day but it's worth mentioning for future brides. We had brought our own music on a CD for before the ceremony, so we only needed them for walking back up the aisle and for champaigne. We started pictures almost right away next door at the spa. I think the trio played two songs (which did sound nice) and than asked one the the groomsmen to interupt me during pictures to see if we wanted them to come to our dinner and continue playing for 150 pesos for 1/2 hour. Maybe I am cheap but I thought that was too expensive, and I was a little annoyed that they would have someone ask me right in the middle of my pics with our photogs. We were going to give them a tip, but after that I chose not to.
Another sour note we had was we were only able to get in about a half hours worth of pics in at the spa before the kicked us out because they were getting noise complaints. I totally get that but I think maybe they shouldn't have booked any appointments while a wedding was going on. It wasn't a big deal, we just went down to the main staircase and took some cool group photos. Than the photogs took us and our wedding party to the beach for more photos.
It was pretty cool to walk through the hotel and down to the beach with our wedding party and photogs....all the guests and even the staff were clapping and cheering for us. We totally felt like rockstars!!
Wedding Dinner : A -
We had our dinner at 6:30 at the Steakhouse. When we arrived after pictures everyone was already seated, so we just had the wedding party come back out so we could have our MC announce everyone. This wasn't needed but I'm glad we did it so everyone got their own special entrance.
The restaurant is open air, and I am so happy we picked it because the colour of paint matched our wedding colours (turquoise and white). I brought some lanterns which looked great hung up...FYI we left them there for any future brides who need those colours. They added some of their own linens in yellow, which I wouldn't have picked on my own but it still looked nice. We did our speeches right after dinner than did cake.
Wedding dinner food: B++
We had the special lobster dinner which was massive! I was so excited that I couldn't eat much but from what I did have it tasted great. I gave the rest to new hubby and he finished it all and loved it. There were mixed reviews for the food from the guests - they had a choice of steak or lobster (we had to pay extra for lobster). Most enjoyed the lobster, but those who got the steak said it was a little overdone and chewy. We ate there during our second week and noticed the same thing.
Our cake was vanilla, three tiers and tasted really good. We asked for the simplest cake as we're not huge cake people and we both thought it looked and tasted good. We had cake toppers made with a bride and groom laying on the beach and our two dogs and they were a hit!
Note: there is construction right next to this restaurant for the new Riu, and not once did I or any guest notice any noise coming from it both on the wedding day and during the week they were there.
Vendors I used
Heather Windsor and Dimitrii Sarantiis
I cannot say enough nice things about these two. They are so talented and easy to be around. We are going soon to see their pics from the wedding and trash the dress, so I will post them and do a proper review than but from what I have seen they look AMAZING!! We both felt so comfortable with them, and they fit right into our group with ease.
Heather Windsor, Wedding Photography in Durham Region, Toronto, GTA and Southern Ontario, Destination Weddings, Fine art wedding and portrait photography
Real touch Flowers: A++++
Enchanting Memories Pat and Debbie
Real Touch flowers
I don`t know much about flowers, but I do know that the real flowers I had seen in Cuba were hit and miss for my taste. I didn`t want to risk going there and getting something I didn`t like (which btw the bouquet I did get included in our package was kinda ugly...I just used it for the bouquet toss)
I had all my bouquets, boutineres for the guys and dad, corsages for the moms and my hair flower all made by these two talented ladies. Everything turned out better than I could have asked and I recieved so many compliments on them. Even better I get to keep my bouquet!!
I know this was long and sorry there are no pictures, but the first link has over 1000 so check that out. Feel free to ask any questions!